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Statement of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle on the 2018 Order of National Artists

29 Oct

We, the members of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle (YCC), denounce once more the exclusion of Nora Aunor (Nora Cabaltera Villamayor) from the roster of artists inducted into the Order of National Artists (ONA) this year, and reiterate our call for the artistic community to rethink and reform the ONA.

In 2014, Aunor passed all levels of screening in the legally constituted process, presided over by the pertinent state cultural institutions, earning her a place in the shortlist of individuals recommended for conferral with the rank and honor of National Artist by the president. She was denied the accolade, however, on grounds that were, at best, spurious: Benigno S. Aquino III alleged that Aunor had been convicted and punished in connection with a drug case, a claim that was as self-righteous as it was misbegotten—which is to say, completely. Along with other concerned parties, we condemned the lack of rigor in thought and awareness of responsibility that underpinned Aquino’s decision.

Owing to her inclusion in the previous shortlist, Aunor was automatically entered into this year’s shortlist, giving rise to the hope that past caprice would be corrected. Like before, her name was dropped; unlike before, the president has deigned to provide no explanation so far. During the formal ceremonies to confer the ONA and other cultural awards, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, as is his wont, spent much of his time railing disjointedly against human rights advocates and other critics of the increasingly defective democracy that he helms.

The day after, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo addressed the omission of Aunor with remarks clad in condescension and incoherence. Aunor was “still young”, he said, and would become National Artist “in God’s perfect time”. Panelo added that her non-proclamation as National Artist was meant to “spare [her] from the emotional and psychological torment coming from the barrage of mixed reactions the award will bring”.

If Aunor has been “spared” any “torment”, it is that which is bound up with the prospect that her celebrated body of work will be instrumentalized—and therefore drained of its vitality—by the present dispensation in order to obscure or detract from the various forms of violence that it has inflicted upon the country.

Nora Aunor at the 69th Venice International Film Festival in 2012. Courtesy of Carvin de Leon (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).

Nora Aunor at the 69th Venice International Film Festival in 2012. Courtesy of Carvin de Leon (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).

Choosing National Artists entails the involvement of artists, cultural workers, and government representatives in a lengthy, multi-tiered process that, whatever its flaws, aims to produce a consensus on the basis of judgments that are as sound as its participants can muster. That the consensus around Aunor has now been dismissed twice over through the exercise of presidential prerogative, premised on reasons poorly conceived and ill-articulated, can only register as sheer waste, as wanton abuse, no matter how ostensibly legal. Aunor herself has said, “Bakit pa nila ako isinali rito kung hindi naman pala ako karapat-dapat?”

The assaults that continue to be visited against the integrity and meaningfulness of the ONA compel us to ask what measures can be taken in order to safeguard it from political whim and interference, to ensure that all who take part in the process, from the initial nominators to the president, act in good faith and are made fully accountable for their decisions. We suggest, as a beginning, that the confidentiality veiling the selection process from the scrutiny of the Filipino people, on whose behalf the ONA is bestowed, be revisited: does it bolster independent assessment or facilitate unscrupulous manipulation?

More importantly, considering that the ONA—or indeed any other prize—should not be taken as the definitive measure of an artist’s achievement, it bears asking: What are the reasons that this award persists, nearly five decades after its invention by a self-styled patroness of the arts? What is meant by “achievement”, anyway, and for whom and against whom is it invoked? How are artists, academics, scholars, critics, and cultural workers—we are no exception—complicit in and culpable for the corruption and dysfunction that seem to be inextricable from this highest of honors awarded by the state to artists?

These and other questions all of us must challenge ourselves with again and again if we are serious about overhauling not only the ONA but also the broader infrastructure for arts and culture in which the ONA is but one part.

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5 Comments

Posted by on 29 October 2018 in Philippine Film

 

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5 responses to “Statement of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle on the 2018 Order of National Artists

  1. Nilo Esquila

    30 October 2018 at 6:50 AM

    JUST LIKE SPORT, FILTHY POLITICS HAS ALWAYS PLAYED AND MEDDLE THE AFFAIRS OF OUR CULTURE AND ART. TOO BAD ITS THE REASON WHY WE DONT HAVE GOLD MEDALIST IN OLYMPICS AND ALWAYS FAILED OUR ENTRY TO OSCAR. HABANG PINAKIKI ALAMAN NG MGA PUTANG INANG POLITIKO NA YAN NA AKALA MO KUNG SINONG MALILINIS WALANG MANGYAYARI SA SPORTS AT FILM NATIN PAGDATING SA ABROAD.

     
  2. Ashton Leon

    30 October 2018 at 12:39 PM

    A power fleeting and temporary that should not breed bigotry, discrimination, injustice, unfairness, deceit, corruption, violation on human rights. To this administration, We are not dumb, stupid and fools.Get your act straight, have balls, be man enough and own the lapse of rationality and fair judgement. In 3 years time you will be gone, just like your predecessors, you will have no more power and immunity,criminal cases will be filled by the blatant violation of human rights thru EJK.
    Let history be the judge,, meanwhile the artistry and greatness of Nora Aunor will stay and be seen again and again,in textbooks television and films, her song be heared on airwaves,by your children, grandchildren, while your FAMILY, will be tortured of the string of criminal cases, run away, and hide your face in shame! You cannot take away one from the other for she symbolize and personify the essence of a filipino,talented, imperfect, yet reselient despite challenges and adversity in life.

     
  3. Nilo Esquila

    31 October 2018 at 12:22 PM

    I hope awarding of NA will be final and executory with the President will act as ceremonial only. Malacañang should not in any way interferr by adding or deleting names already submitted by NCAA. Those cabinet secretaries are all Fuckin and Bullshit!..

     
  4. bal banez

    08 November 2018 at 1:50 PM

    supreme artistry as enbodied by nora aunor is the least of any political interference…because the mere parameters of politics is devoid of any artistic indicators akin to artistic excellence.such being the nature of the contradictions in parameters, why should a political prerogative be used to gauge artistic excellence? bestow artistic recognition by someone whose psychology is political in nature than artistic at the most? dont ever put artistry measurements into the mental parameters of a political thinker like any president of the state, since the president is also a mere spectator of the arts and not a critic of it.

     

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